FP2: Leclerc leads Sainz and Alonso during second practice in Las Vegas
Charles Leclerc set the pace from Ferrari team mate Carlos Sainz and Aston Martin rival Fernando Alonso during a busy extended second practice session for the Las Vegas Grand Prix that ran through the early hours of Friday morning.
After a shortened FP1, a host of lock-ups and off-track excursions filled the opening minutes of the delayed FP2 as drivers built up speed around the 6.201-kilometre, 17-turn Las Vegas Strip Circuit and got used to its characteristics.
Such has been the way for most of the 2023 season, Verstappen got straight down to business and led the early running with a time of 1m 38.209s on Pirelli’s medium compound tyre, slotting ahead of the Ferraris and Alex Albon’s Williams.
With a range of run plans being carried out across the extended 90-minute session, Verstappen squeezed his way past Leclerc down the back straight and into the tight Turn 14, 15 and 16 sequence around a third of the way into proceedings, prompting the latter to joke over the radio that “Max is racing already”.
FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN SILVER LAS VEGAS GRAND PRIX 2023
United States 2023
Practice 2 results
|1 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||1:35.265|
|2 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari||+0.517s|
|3 Fernando Alonso ALO Aston Martin||+0.528s|
|4 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||+0.820s|
|5 Valtteri Bottas BOT Alfa Romeo||+0.864s|
Shortly afterward, the drivers started to pump in some qualifying-style laps on the soft rubber, with Verstappen experiencing a scruffy first run and at one point coming close to clipping the wall, opening the door for several rivals to take a turn at the top of the timesheets.
A host of improvements followed as the track condition improved and drivers built up confidence, ending with Leclerc holding P1 on a 1m 35.265s, just over half a second clear of team mate Sainz – braced for a 10-place grid penalty after changes to his power unit – and Alonso’s Aston Martin.
While Verstappen returned to the track and delivered a cleaner run on softs, it was Sergio Perez who finished as the fastest of the Red Bulls in fourth position, with the high-flying Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas pipping the reigning world champion to fifth.
Nico Hulkenberg put his Haas an impressive seventh, though not without picking up a black and white flag for failing to follow the Race Director’s instructions at the pit entry, followed by the other Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.
Following on from their Sao Paulo Grand Prix struggles, Mercedes had a quiet start to the weekend as Lewis Hamilton wound up ninth and team mate George Russell 12th, with Albon and McLaren’s Lando Norris finishing between them.
Kevin Magnussen, who unlike team mate Hulkenberg has stuck with Haas’s latest upgrade package for this weekend’s action, wound up 13th fastest, ahead of Oscar Piastri’s McLaren and Alpine pair Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon.
AlphaTauri drivers Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo were 17th and 19th respectively, split by the second Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu, with home favourite Logan Sargeant bringing up the rear in his Williams, some three seconds off the pace set by Leclerc.
The drivers will now chew over the data with their teams ahead of the final practice hour on Friday night at 2030 local time, building up to the first-ever Las Vegas GP qualifying session.